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How to Grow Paperwhite Bulb


Ever since I can remember, every year for Christmas, my mom (Nana) would grow Paperwhite Narcissus for Christmas. They are grown from a small bulb. Paperwhites are part of the “Daffodil” family, but are small and white. They take a little bit of planning ahead because they will take about 4 weeks to bloom. My mom would always plant them in a clear glass container, because it was fun to see the roots grow. The bulbs can be planted in any container using or rocks or pebbles, or they can be planted in potting soil. The kids will love to take part in watering these each day. Take pictures of the process. It’s fascinating!

You will need:

A shallow container (needs to be at least 3″ high)

Pebbles, small rocks or marbles

Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs

Rubbing Alchohol (70%)


Fill your container with the pebbles (at least 2″ deep.)  The root end should be down.  This is what the root end looks like:

Paperwhite Narcissus - how to plant

Nestle the bulbs in the pebbles (close together, but not touching) so that they are covered only about halfway. The pointy end should be facing up.

Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus to bloom in time for Christmas!

Next, add water to the container just so that the bottoms of the bulbs are touching the water. (The bulbs should not be submerged in water!) Water daily just so that the roots stay wet. After the stems have grown to about 1 – 2″ tall, follow these instructions below to keep the stems from growing too tall and “leggy.”

Keep them at room temperature, in a well lit area, but not in direct sunlight.

Instructions for watering:

You can use plain water for watering, but the flowers will grow very tall and “leggy.”

So that they don’t get too tall, you can make the following formula for watering by mixing –

1 part (70%) Rubbing Alcohol to 10 parts water (I just mix 1 oz. rubbing alcohol and 10 oz. water and keep it in a labeled container and use it to water the bulbs daily.) Then, make more as needed.

This formula will “stunt” their growth by about 1/3.  You may have noticed that when the Paperwhites grow too tall, they have a hard time standing up on their own and sometimes bend and break.  Watering with this formula will keep them at a nice, manageable height and yet they will still be able to bloom.

Water daily with this formula (instead of plain water) to the same level – just enough to keep the roots wet.

They should take about 4 weeks to bloom. So, for Thanksgiving blooms, plant the bulbs in mid-October. For Christmas blooms, plant the third week of November.

Here is a picture of Nana’s Paperwhites! Aren’t they pretty?

How to Grow Paperwhite Narcissus

She planted hers in clear glass containers so you can see the root system. This project is especially fun for kids!

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